Before Saturday afternoon, the previous three meetings between Ashland University and Northern Michigan all saw the Wildcats take an early lead, only to have the Eagles respond in resounding fashion for the victory.
This year's matchup saw AU cut out the first part of that equation, as the Eagles scored the first 44 points in a 44-14 victory on Senior Day over the Wildcats Saturday (Oct. 25) at Jack Miller Stadium/Martinelli Field.
Ashland, ranked 24th in this week's American Football Coaches Association poll and 25th in this week's D2Football.com Top 25 Media Poll, now is 7-1 overall and in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. The Eagles now have won five games in a row, are in first place in the GLIAC South Division by a half-game over idle Ohio Dominican and finished the regular season undefeated at home for the second time in the last three seasons.
"We wanted to have a good start," said Ashland head coach Lee Owens, whose team has trailed just once in seven victories in 2014.
Northern Michigan now is 2-6 overall and 1-6 in the GLIAC.
Ashland redshirt freshman quarterback Travis Tarnowski set a new stadium record – and tied an overall program record – by throwing for five touchdowns passes, all by the 11:46 mark of the third quarter. He finished the afternoon 17-for-22 for 263 yards, and wasn't sacked.
"We thought it was important for this to happen," Owens said of Tarnowski's big day. "He made some great throws against man coverage."
Defensively, the Eagles turned in their fourth consecutive stellar outing, keeping the Wildcats to no points and 102 yards of offense through three quarters. The outside rush duo of sophomore Adam Wallace (six total tackles, two sacks and 2½ tackles for loss) and senior Chase Hoobler (five total tackles, one sack, 3½ tackles for loss) haunted Northern Michigan's backfield throughout the game.
That combined performance by Wallace and Hoobler got Owens wondering…
"If we could put (current National Football League defensive linemen Jamie) Meder and (Jeris) Pendleton in the middle of Wallace and Hoobler, we'd have won a national championship," he said, "because they are really playing well."
Senior tailback Anthony Taylor ran for 112 yards and a touchdown on just 13 carries, while sophomore Vance Settlemire added 77 yards on 12 totes. Senior wide receiver Dan Piko caught four passes for 57 yards and two touchdowns.
Freshman cornerback Dale Irby made his first collegiate start, and had three solo tackles and a pass breakup.
The Eagles will return to the road in Week 9 for a key game against Grand Valley State. The kickoff from Allendale, Mich., will be Saturday, Nov. 1, at 7 p.m.